Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh said on Saturday, that Lavasa had still not been given a clean chit. The fate of Lavasa hill city, planned across 25,000 acres in Pune district, still depends on the Centre’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) panel report that will come to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on January 10, Ramesh said while speaking to reporters.
On November 25, the MoEF had issued a stop-work notice for the Lavasa project saying it violated some environmental rules. It also asked the company why some structures built after 2004 shouldn’t be demolished.
The corporation then approached the Bombay high court, which instructed the ministry to send a team to the project site to find out whether environmental rules were violated.
Ramesh defended EAC chairperson Naresh Dayal, who while responding to the press in Pune on Friday, had said that prima facie there was no large-scale destruction of forest cover at Lavasa. He had also said it would not affect water supply to Pune city.
“ Dayal was particularly asked about forest violations and he said there weren’t any. But, the panel has gone to Lavasa to look at environmental violations, which the EAC panel will put in the report that will come to the MoEF on Monday. It will be in the public domain on Tuesday and we will take a final decision on January 17,” Ramesh said.
Dayal was heading the eight-member committee that was on a three-day site inspection of Lavasa, which had allegedly violated environmental norms.
The comments made by Dayal had come as a relief to Lavasa Corporation Ltd, which had got into trouble after Hindustan Times had first reported in its August 20, 2010, edition that the project had come under the scanner of the MoEF for allegedly violating environmental norms.
National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) leader Medha Patkar had alleged that the project had led to destruction of forest cover in the region.
In fact, chief managing director of Lavasa Corporation Ltd, Ajit Gulabchand, had immediately taken a press conference on Friday after the panel had concluded its visit and admitted that the company was willing to rectify mistakes if any had occurred while implementing the hill city project, a first-of-its-kind in the country.